Tag: public history

The Mystery of William Jones, An Enslaved Man Owned by Ulysses S. Grant

The Mystery of William Jones, An Enslaved Man Owned by Ulysses S. Grant

On March 29, 1859, Ulysses S. Grant went to the St. Louis Courthouse to attend to a pressing legal matter. That day Grant signed a manumission paper freeing William Jones, an enslaved African American man that he had previously acquired from his father-in-law, "Colonel" Frederick F. Dent. Described as being ...
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Every Social Media Manager a Historian: Reflections on Interpreting History Through NPS Social Media

Every Social Media Manager a Historian: Reflections on Interpreting History Through NPS Social Media

In one of his final acts as President of the United States, Barack Obama utilized the power of the 1906 Antiquities Act to establish Reconstruction Era National Monument (REER) in Beaufort, South Carolina, as a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) on January 12, 2017. Like many historians of ...
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Exit Through the Gift Shop: Historical Memory and Gift Shops at Civil War Historic Sites

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Historical Memory and Gift Shops at Civil War Historic Sites

When I was a graduate student living in Indiana, I made a point of visiting historical sites connected to the Civil War throughout the state. One of my favorites was the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville. Situated in a quiet neighborhood in northwest Indiana, the site preserves ...
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A Statistical Analysis of Visitation to National Park Service Civil War Sites During the Sesquicentennial

A Statistical Analysis of Visitation to National Park Service Civil War Sites During the Sesquicentennial

In early 2017, the National Park Service released an official report on its efforts to educate visitors about the American Civil War during its sesquicentennial anniversary (2011-2015). Plans to organize educational programming for the sesquicentennial started as early as 1998, when a group of Superintendents at NPS Civil War sites ...
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Beauvoir, The Last Home of Jefferson Davis

Beauvoir, The Last Home of Jefferson Davis

The quote from George Orwell’s novel 1984, “who controls the present controls the past” is unfortunately especially poignant under the Trump administration.[1] The threats posed to education and Americans’ understanding of their own history, thanks to his endorsement of “alternative facts,” have already received widespread attention. Indeed, journalist David Graham ...
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Author Interview: Nancy Bercaw

To coincide with our March 2017 special issue on Reconstruction, we interviewed Nancy Bercaw, curator of the Slavery and Freedom exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Dr. Bercaw contributed to our roundtable discussion on how Reconstruction is represented in public history contexts. In this interview ...
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Postscript to "Reconstructing Memory"

Postscript to “Reconstructing Memory”

The March 2017 issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era includes the article “Reconstructing Memory: The Attempt to Designate Beaufort, South Carolina the National Park’s First Reconstruction Unit.” It addresses a vigorous effort at the national and local level that began in December of 2000 and aimed to ...
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eichorn-1

The Plantation Tour Disaster: Teaching Slavery, Memory, and Public History

Plantation tours offer an abundance of learning opportunities, but they can also offer a stereotypical, even anachronistic, portrayal of slavery and life in the Old South. For instance, a tour guide at the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site near Brunswick, Georgia, stated during a tour that “in the holiday season, one ...
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jones1

Are There New Lives for Old Objects at the National Museum of African American History and Culture?

The doors are open at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC.) Perhaps you are among the hundreds who have already made the trek to the Mall’s newest venue to marvel at the architecture, wander the exhibitions, and reflect on how African American history is ...
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Key1

Paradise Lost: Florida’s Egmont Key during the Civil War

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area evokes images of sugar sand beaches and crystal-clear Gulf waters. A stone’s throw from St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Ferry carts beachgoers two or three times a day between Fort DeSoto County Park and Egmont Key State Park. Egmont Key’s informational brochure boasts that it is ...
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CWP Gates

Camp William Penn and the Fight for Historical Memory

If you were to drive down Cheltenham Avenue north of Philadelphia today between Penrose Avenue and School Lane, you would pass standard urban blocks, nothing extraordinary. A cemetery, gas station, a mixed collection of residences, and a community center. Casual passersby—many residents, even--do not recognize the historical significance of the ...
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“A History They Can Use”: The Memphis Massacre and Reconstruction’s Public History Terrain

“A History They Can Use”: The Memphis Massacre and Reconstruction’s Public History Terrain

On May 20th and 21st, a group of scholars, students, and public historians gathered at the University of Memphis to discuss a dramatic event often overlooked in the narrative of Reconstruction, the Memphis Massacre of 1866. The symposium, and the Memphis Massacre Project, informed the public about the massacre and ...
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The First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama delivering her speech on Monday night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Image from CNBC.

Slavery, Nostalgia, and the White House

At the Aiken-Rhett House Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, visitors do not view the beautiful interiors of the slaveholders’ residence until they have become fully acquainted with the slaves’ living quarters and work spaces. Tours begin in the basement and back yard of the house. The site interrupts the nostalgic ...
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The Beecher house; image courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

Bidding on History: The Strange Afterlife of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Birthplace

In May 2016, the remains of a dismantled eighteenth century wooden house appeared for sale on eBay. The online listing specified that, “Every single thing has been saved including the original plaster walls.” The seller asked $14.5 million to purchase the structure, claiming that the pieces constituted the “most important ...
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Home Sweet Home?: Slave Dwellings and the Politics of Home

Home Sweet Home?: Slave Dwellings and the Politics of Home

Perhaps nothing better encapsulates our personal histories than our homes. From the slightly outdated furniture to the embarrassing school-age portraits to the perfect warm spot by the fireplace, the amalgam of objects, images, and spaces that comprise home shapes our core. So too do those within; our families, friends, and ...
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